(From the Learning Narrative prompt): Write a learning narrative about a specific event from your life that helped you learn something new about yourself or others. Your narrative should focus on a specific event in a narrow timeframe, using vivid description, narration, detail, and dialogue to organize your memories and make the significance of what happened clear to an audience.
It was a warm morning at el ranchito, and a special one as well; it was the opening to my day-school, and my first day as a teacher, or so I liked to believe it was. Although at the time I was only but seven years old, deep in my heart I knew I wanted to be a teacher and along the process help others learn as much as they could. Ironically, even though I was never read to at home, I loved reading every time I had a book in my hands, and I especially loved (and still do, of course) to go to school and learn as much as I could from my teacher. I recall how I would go back home from school and tell my mom what I had learned in class, which was already an everyday-task she and I went over. Consequently, this provoked in me a sense of wanting to share but essentially teach others what I knew. And this is how I came up with the idea of being a teacher, and before my mother knew of my brilliant idea, half the kids in our neighborhood were already knocking on my door, anxiously waiting for me to step outside and begin our class.
I began class by reading my first and favorite book of my childhood; Pulgarcito, or Tom Thumb in English. I can close my eyes and still see the look in my neighbors’ and several of my own friends’ faces; they seemed to be so engaged into the story, being very attentive and extremely quiet that I could even hear my own breathing and heart beat at times. After I finished reading the short story, I would ask what my “students” had learned, what they had most liked, and what did not interest them as much. Then came “las clases de escritura”, or the writing classes, as I would call them. For this part of the class, I would go over the vowels as well as the alphabet, telling my students what each consisted of and including a word with each as an example. Despite my young age, I felt I was truly helping and teaching my students, and I would love how I sometimes would actually be called “maestra”, or teacher, even if the kids did so playfully or simply to tease me. To me, it was more than real; I knew I was their teacher.
Soon enough, my interest and enjoyment for reading and teaching grew to such an extent that I recall always wanting to read and teach everything I knew to everyone that I encountered, and this was especially true when we had family and friends over, or visitors in general. As time passed, I felt confident and happy with the improvement of my reading and writing, and especially for my ability to get in front of large groups of people and not be afraid, at least not overwhelmingly afraid, while also being able to do one of the things I began to discover a deep interest in; talking and conversing with others around me despite their age or gender. Unfortunately, this was all soon to change, and it happened when I least expected it.
One solemn day after coming home from school, I noticed my mother had not welcomed me with a hug and kiss as she usually did, and I immediately knew something was wrong. After being told my family and I were to immigrate to “El Norte”, or the “North”, I simply knew my life was never going to be the same. Little did I know, however, that I was in for a real treat; a “warm” and “inviting” welcoming into mainstream society and the American way of living life. As I cried and begged my mom to take me back with her on what was supposed to be my first day of school at Los Padres Elementary School, I knew I was going to be at all possible disadvantages for not knowing a single thing or word in English.
After my mom gave me her blessings and told me everything was going to be okay, I gathered all the strength I could muster and walked into Mrs. Camaney’s third-grade classroom. About a month or so into the class, Ms. Camaney asked several different students to read a story we were reading at loud as a group, and what I most feared for that particular activity happened: she asked if I could continue reading the story, in English, of course. Feeling my heart beating unstoppably and my face turning red hot with embarrassment, I asked to please be excused from reading, for I still did not feel comfortable reading in English, especially out loud to the rest of the class. Ms. Camaney insisted, and as I began reading with a heavy accent and mispronouncing almost every word in the story, my classmates began to laugh and make fun of me.
Being as young as I was, in a place completely foreign and without the knowledge of the language was already an enormous challenge for me to overcome, and with incidents such as this one, I felt I was in a war where everything and everyone was against me, and that I was being “wounded” and “defeated” over and over again. Although I tried to continue to read, no words or sounds would come out of my mouth, only a warm, watery liquid coming out of my eyes and streaming down my cheeks. Here I was, hoping to be given a helpful hand, an opportunity to try my best, but instead I was laughed at and ridiculed.
This incident marked a turning point in my life, for after this took place, I began to lose interest in reading as well as learning the English language in general. I was afraid of going through the same thing again, of being laughed and humiliated for not properly saying a sentence, or mispronouncing a word. I soon began to enter a world in which my fear overtook me in all possible ways, negatively affecting learning experiences as well as my interest of wanting to learn a new language. Soon enough, I began to isolate myself from others, keeping away from any social interactions that would especially require of me to speak English, for I felt somewhat inferior to the rest of the students that were already fluent in the language.
As I travel through time and go back to those years of my childhood, I know very well this situation not only affected me in terms of building my self-esteem but also in academic matters, for the discrimination and constant humiliation I received turned into fear, and that fear kept me from participating in class, from asking questions and clarifications about something, and ultimately, from believing in my own personal abilities and strengths to excel in school. As time passed by, however, I learned to grow and strengthen my own will power and capacity, for incidents such as these have come to shape me into the person I am today; bold, determined and not afraid of speaking up and standing for my beliefs and ideals. Therefore, always keep an eye open, for you never know when today’s catastrophe can be tomorrow’s miracle.